Recently, several of Madison Advisors' Fortune 500 clients have sought our assistance to help them understand how a given vendor's proposed TransPromo "solution" will fit within their environment and enable them to achieve their TransPromo goals. This is perplexing.

The challenge lies in positioning TransPromo as a solution and not an application. As with any technology initiative, TransPromo is as simple or as complicated as you make it. Many of the "solution" proposals we've reviewed for clients over highly sophisticated (read: complex) approaches. While the projected end results are impressive in concept, few of our clients currently have the appetite or budget for expensive technology implementations that don't produce near-term results. Not surprisingly, none of these organizations have awarded contracts. Most have found alternative approaches.

The good news is there are lots of "alternative approaches" to consider. Madison Advisors typically advises our clients to start by assessing your existing assets. Most organizations find that they already have the "baseline" technologies required for TransPromo in-house. See Jim Hackett's column, TransPromo Nirvana, for practical tactics for approaching TransPromo without incurring cost. The column can be found in this issue's digital version.

In terms of "baseline technologies," in its simplest incarnation, you need data analytics, a campaign generation utility, document composition and response management to support a TransPromo application. This assumes you already have production print, insertion and finishing capabilities in-house.

Best Western, for example, wanted to redeploy its existing market spend in a way that maximized marketing communications. The hotel launched a pilot TransPromo application that transitioned an existing loyalty statement into a relevant, "must-read" communications piece through the use of cross-functional data on its loyalty card holders. One of the goals of the pilot was to increase registrations and incremental hotel bookings. With a 39% increase in stays, a 34% increase in number of nights stayed and a 30% increase in revenue generated from the recipients of the TransPromo piece (50,000 mailings) over the control group (50,000 mailings), the results speak for themselves. Both GMC Software Technology and InfoPrint Solutions Company helped Best Western produce this application.

Of course, the million-dollar question is: Do you need color to do TransPromo? Industry studies have shown that color can increase customer responsiveness by up to 45%. If you already have production color capabilities in-house or if you have the budget to implement it in the near-term and — the big if — if you have the creative talent to design effectively with color, then color will likely increase the effectiveness of your TransPromo applications. You do not, however, need color to produce an effective TransPromo application. The relevancy of the content is far more critical than its color. Color can be saved for phase two.

In a year when you need to be creative with your marketing budget but still produce big results, TransPromo offers a compelling solution. The most successful organizations start small with existing assets, demonstrate an early success and then build upon this momentum.

Kelley West [], is a vice president with Madison Advisors, an advisory firm that provides thought leadership, strategic consulting and market research in the print and electronic communications space.